If in some theoretical situation, I was forced to pick one food to eat for the rest of my life without any health consequences, it would be a real tough call between cheese and sushi. Cheese might squeeze by with the victory – a life without brie is no life at all – but it would be close. Man, do I love cheese and sushi...just not together. It's safe to say these are my guilty pleasures.
To take the guilt away from the pleasure, I regularly include these foods in my diet in a healthy way. To get my cheese fix, I include a high-quality cheese in our meal plan once (okay twice) a week, as part of an otherwise healthy meal. Creamy goat cheese scattered on my salad, briny feta on veggie tacos, earthy blue cheese on my roasted veggies. It's easy to use a little bit of cheese to enhance a veggie-centric dish.
But sushi stumped me. Now, I know many of you probably count sushi as a healthy choice, but lets face the facts here, it's fish, white rice and a sugary rice dressing.
I tried to make healthy sushi rolls at home, but each time was an epic fail. It’s the whole rolling thing that gets me. The first time I tried, it fell apart into a hot mess on my plate. The second time, I was able to make a roll, but it was so massive I needed a fork and knife. Apparently my penchant for over-stuffing burritos runs into sushi-making territory as well. After my last attempt when I couldn't get the ends to stick, I gave up. But a few months ago I spotted a sushi-style salad on a restaurant menu and I knew I found the solution. Homemade sushi for people like me who lack gross motor skills! Genius! I threw together this recipe with my favorite sushi ingredients, but feel free to experiment and deconstruct your favorite rolls.
Now, a word on a few of the ingredients:
Wakame and nori
These are two types of sea vegetables, a fabulous superfood. You can find them on the Asian food isle. Sea vegetables are the richest source of iodine, which is important for thyroid health. Toasted nori is a delicious snack, but you can also sprinkle it on scrambled eggs or crumble it into a savory trail mix. I like to add wakame to Asian soups or cucumber salads.
Soy sauce, a fermented food, can help support the growth of healthy bacteria in your large intestine. Although soy sauce is high in sodium, there is some evidence suggesting it may not raise blood pressure the same way other high sodium foods do. Still, I would purchase low sodium soy sauce and use it sparingly if you are on a salt restricted diet.
Besides being the tastiest mushroom (my opinion), shiitakes have long been used in Eastern medicine to boost the immune system and fight cancer. They may have been onto something, as research shows shiitakes can help activate macrophage cells in your immune system and contains multiple compounds that may slow the growth of tumors.
Rice: 1 cup short grain brown rice 1/4 cup wakame (optional)
2-4 tbsp minced pickled ginger (optional, but not really cause it’s awesome) 1 avocado 4 tsp sesame oil 4 tsp chili oil (optional - for those who like it HOTT!) 1 package toasted nori (I used wasabi flavor)
First, prepare the rice. You could do the whole washing the rice grains thing you’re supposed to do with real sushi rice, but I am much too lazy. Bring 2 ¼ cups water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add brown rice, cover, and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, add the wakame and a little bit of extra water if needed. Cover and cook for an additional 10 to 20 minutes until the rice is tender. Remove the rice from the hot pot and transfer to a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk the vinegar, sugar and salt. Toss the dressing with the rice then cool in the refrigerator while you prepare the other ingredients.
Next, make the shiitakes. Mix all the ingredients together in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cover and turn the heat down to low. Cook for 10-15 minutes until tender. Remove mushrooms from the cooking liquid using a slotted spoon. Refrigerate in a small bowl and move on to the omelet!
So you may not have had egg in sushi before. Trust me, it’s awesome. But you can leave it out if you’re totally freaked out. To make the omelet, beat the eggs in a small bowl. Add the mirin and soy sauce and stir to combine. Heat the canola oil in a small sauté pan. Add the eggs and cook until mostly set. Flip them over and cook the other side for another minute or two. Flip the eggs onto a plate and refrigerate to slightly cool.
Now it’s time to make the salad. Pull the omelet out of the fridge and cut into 1/2 inch slices. Toss the rice, mushrooms, sesame seeds, cucumber, omelet and pickled ginger in a large bowl. Separate the salad onto four plates.
Mound a pile of fish (or tofu, or shrimp, or whatever) on top. Slice the avocado and divide between the four plates. Drizzle each with 1 tsp of sesame oil and 1 tsp of chili oil, if using. Crumble the package of toasted nori and sprinkle over each of the four plates. Serve with a mound of wasabi on the side.